Brooklyn, NY – A picture capturing a slice of life in New York City has gone viral over social media, with hundreds of users sharing the image of a black-hatted Orthodox Jew and a black man playing chess in a New York City park last week.
The picture, titled Checkmate, was taken by Flatbush resident Mo Gelber, an Orthodox Jewish street photographer on May 7th.
After the photograph appeared in Hamodia this week, explaining the story of how the unusual chess match came about, one of the chess players was identified as Rabbi Dovid Bergman, an Amshinover chosid from Borough Park.
The photo, which has been making the rounds on Facebook and Reddit, has also caught the eye of the NYPD, according to Yanky Meyer Founder of Misaskim.
“I actually found out about the picture from the police department,” Meyer, a good friend of Rabbi Bergman’s, told VIN News. “They were in awe of the unity that that picture showed and it shows how far we have come.”
According to a close friend of Rabbi Bergman’s who asked not to be named, the chess game took place in Manhattan when Rabbi Bergman took a quick break on a lengthy train ride home from a job interview with a yeshiva in Queens.
“He was just walking in the park when this guy invited him over to play a game of chess,” said the friend, who described the 28 year old Rabbi Bergman as an extremely bright, charismatic talmid chochom, with a magnetic personality, who is a highly sought after maggid shiur, despite his young age.
While Rabbi Bergman is not an avid chess player, he handily defeated his unidentified opponent in under five minutes.
According to sources, the two men shared no meaningful conversation during the game and did not exchange names. Once the game ended, Rabbi Bergman resumed his trek back to Brooklyn and it was only days later, after the photo appeared in Hamodia, when someone approached Rabbi Bergman in shul, asking him who won the game that he discovered that his short chess match had gone viral on the internet.
Gelber, who took the now famous picture on his Canon 6D, had ducked into Tompkins Square Park in the East Village to make a quick phone call when he noticed the pair playing chess.
“I sat down to make my call and I saw these guys and I thought it was just a beautiful moment,” said Gelber. “There are so many unfortunate racial stereotypes and so many instances where the two communities don’t get together as often as they should and I knew that I had to take this photo and that it would be a hit.”
Gelber, an aspiring photo journalist, posted the photo on Facebook, where in his words, “it just exploded,” as it was shared numerous times. Since then, Gelber has been contacted by various media outlets, both Jewish and secular.
“I looked at this picture and it said to me that one day humanity is just going to get it right and we are going to stop fighting with each other based on stereotypes,” said Gelber. “We have so much more in common than we have differences.”
Gelber often goes out on “photo adventures”, walking the streets of New York in an attempt to capture noteworthy moments.
“Before I go out, I always put a coin in the tzedaka box and I ask Hashem to put me in the right place at the right time,” said Gelber. “A street photographer looks at the street as a theater and every day in New York City, there are 7 million shows going on. We have a split second to capture the moment and immortalize it in a picture.”